Monday, June 30, 2008

Water Series

Summary. At Cheltenham, with limited time, an easy day:
  • Series A. Delayed cheater (both dogs)
  • Series B. Delayed cheater (both dogs)
General Notes. A delayed cheater (DC) is my term for a series structured as follows:
  1. Throw a poorman cheating single, that is, a mark that will invite the dog to run the bank, divert to a point, avoid a particular entry, exit, or section of water, or in any other way veer from a straight path between the SL and the fall.
  2. Run the dog on a pre-positioned blind, preferably one that also invites cheating.
  3. Run the dog on the cheater thrown in step 1.
For today's DCs, I used ducks for the blinds (step 2) and white dummies for the marks (steps 1 and 3).

Although Laddie has had less experience with cheaters, he is nearly caught up to Lumi in his ability to perform well on them, and sometimes performs better than she does on the identical retrieve. Today, I decided to run both dogs on the same two set-ups, in each case running Laddie first, then Lumi. The set-ups were pieced together from elements of the set-ups at yesterday's training day with our Field Trial group.

In addition to this being the first time Laddie was running the same set-ups as Lumi, it was also his first experience with water blinds, and his first experience with DCs, where he sees the mark thrown, but runs a blind before retrieving the mark.

Series A. The set-up:
  • #1 (thrown first, retrieved last): 80-yard LWL mark (dummy) thrown from the position of a stickman, including a 30-yard swim and a road crossing, with angle entries at both ends of the swim and a cheating opportunity around the water to the right
  • #2: 40-yard LWL blind (duck), including a 20-yard swim beside an S-curve, with a cheating opportunity to the left
Both dogs did well: Good angle entries and exits, responsive to all whistle-sit-casts (WSCs), great LWL returns (still an occasional problem for Laddie).

Despite the stickman, Lumi seemed to have some trouble remembering the mark after running the blind, and veered along the near shoreline when I sent her on "Lumi". When I called her back to heel and send her on "back", she took a straight line into the water and on to the fall.

Series B. The set-up:
  • #1 (thrown first, retrieved last): 60-yard LWL mark (dummy), thrown from a stickman across the channel from the fall (called a bridge mark), with the fall in high grass, and including a 30-yard swim with angle entries at both ends of the swim
  • #2: 50-yard LWL blind (duck), including a 40-yard swim past points first on the right, then on the left, and a cheating opportunity to run around half the channel on the right on the return
Again, both dogs did well, and again, Laddie had no trouble with either of the LWL returns.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Field Trial Training

Summary. Today, the dogs and I trained with the Field Trial training group again:
  • Series A. Water blind (both dogs)
  • Series B. Water series (both dogs)
  • Series C. Water series (both dogs)
Series A. Series A was a blind (orange dummies) run by most of the dogs from a mound, with a 100-yard run on land and then a 40-yard swim up a channel passing points first on the right, then on the left.

With Lumi, I moved up our SL so that we were 20 yards from the water entry. Although Lumi has swum that same channel before with little difficulty, today she needed a lot of handling to stay off the points on the send-out. She required no handling on the return.

With Laddie, who has never run a water blind, I asked another trainer to throw an orange dummy onto the spot where the other dogs were retrieving from while Laddie was watching, then to stay visible. Laddie swam straight to the dummy on his send-out, but cheated around water to the mid-point of the return trip on his return. When he entered the water, he had no trouble with the entry.

Series B. The set-up, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #2: 200-yard LWL mark (dummy), mostly land but with a slice at the end of a channel and the opportunity to cheat around it both directions
  • #1: 140-yard LWLWL mark (dummy), thrown as a "bridge" mark across a channel and in the opposite direction from #2 (so that the sight lines to the throwers were in a tight angle), with angle entries at both ends of both water crossings and the fall in high cover
  • #3: 240-yard LWLWL mark (dummy), mostly land but with a 20-yard water crossing 40 yards from the SL and a ditch crossing 30 yards from the fall, with the thrower and the fall between two trees
Although both dogs had some problems (see below), overall they both did a good job, better than some of the other dogs in the group. I thought they did especially well considering the fact that we haven't trained with this group in some time and have not been training at these distances.


I had Laddie run first, using #1 and #2 as singles, and not having him run #3, since I was afraid he might maroon at the ditch on the return.

I had the thrower throw #1 into the open channel rather than into the high cover on the other side, again because I didn't want to risk Laddie marooning.

On #1, Laddie had no trouble on the send out, but played a little at water's edge on the water entry during his return.

Laddie started to cheat around the channel on #2. I called him back and re-sent him, and this time he ran it correctly. He made no attempt to cheat around coming back, but again, he played a little at water's edge on the water entry during his return.


I planned to have Lumi run this as a double (#2 thrown first, then #1) followed by #3 as a single. But she was too distracted by the thrower for the second throw (#1) to keep her eye on the the first throw (#2). As a result, when she came back from the go-bird (#1), she didn't seem to remember the memory bird (#2). I asked the guy to re-throw #2 as a single.

Aside from that, Lumi did a nice job. I learned later that #1 was considered a difficult and advanced mark for a number of reasons, especially the "bridge" with the thrower on one side of the channel and the fall in high cover on the other side, but Lumi had had no difficulty with it.

Series C. The set-up, left to right within a 60° angle:
  • #2: 120-yard LWL mark (dummy), with 90-yard swim and the fall in high cover
  • #1: 100-yard LWL mark (dummy), with 30-yard swim and the fall across a road and with trees on both sides of the sight line to the fall
  • #3: 140-yard LWL mark (dummy), with 30-yard swim
Laddie, running first, marooned on #2 and #3. I had the thrower take the dummy from Laddie and throw it in the water. Each time, Laddie leapt in after it and then responded to my come-in whistle and/or verbal Here cue.

For Lumi, I again tried to run #2-#1 as a double, with #1 thrown second as the go-bird. Lumi completed that retrieve, then swam toward the thrower instead of the fall when I sent her on #2 as the memory bird. After getting out of the water, she headed the wrong direction and seemed lost, and I decided to handle her for practice rather than getting help from the thrower. She handled well, and I actually liked one incorrect cast she took: I cued Over, and she interpreted that as an angle-in into to the water.

On #3, Lumi did something I've never seen her do before. She became defocused after crossing the water, finally lying down in the grass and starting to roll. I called for help from the thrower, and she was fine after one hey-hey from him.

I believe that Laddie's problems with marooning, and Lumi's problem on #3, might both be at least partially because of the number of retrieves they had today that were longer than they are used to. Both dogs are in generally good condition, but I suspect they're not really in condition, at least mentally, for marks in these ranges of distances. That's something we'll begin working on in our upcoming training sessions.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Land Blinds

Squeezing in a training session on a recreation field at Little Bennett Campgrounds, I set up a triple blind of 50-80-110 yards, using orange dummies marked by surveyors flags.

This was the longest triple blind of our current series of land blind drills, beginning a few days ago. The objective was to exercise both dogs' responsiveness to whistle sits and casts at short distances and then gradually add distance over time. Unfortunately, a side effect of the drill has apparently been to improve their lining prowess at the same time.

Today, both dogs lined all three blinds, providing no opportunity to practice their whistle sits.

Laddie's Swimline Phobia

I've read previously of the cumulative effect of negative reinforcement in phobias arising, and I suspect that Laddie's difficulties with land-water-land retrieves, only now nearly overcome after weeks of daily practice, might be a good example.

When a dog does something and receives a reward for doing so, the dog is more likely to do it again. That's positive reinforcement.

But when a dog successfully avoids something he knows or suspects he will find it unpleasant (that is, an aversive), learning that avoidance behavior via negative reinforcement, the effect is doubled:
  • The behavior has the result of avoiding the aversive.
  • The behavior also has the result of the dog feeling better once the avoidance has been accomplished.
The next time the dog encounters the same aversive, he now has two reasons for avoiding it: because he again knows or suspects he will find it unpleasant, and because he felt good the last time he avoided it.

The third time, the reinforcement history has again grown, and now he has three reasons: the original reasons, and two experiences of feeling better afterward.

It is perhaps that mechanism that enables a mild aversion to grow over time into an intense aversion, that is, a phobia in which the sense of fear seems irrationally exaggerated.

I suspect something along those lines may have happened with Laddie, eventually hampering his ability to accomplish land-water-land retrieves (LWL). The sequence may have been something along these lines:
  • Most dogs seem to find it at least mildly unpleasant to enter shallow water and then, as they walk further out into deeper water, feel the ground finally disappear under their feet, forcing them to begin swimming. Even if they love water and love swimming, that transition over what I call the swimline, the line where they must begin swimming, takes some getting use to.
  • Most retrievers are sufficiently motivated to enter the water to complete a retrieve on the other side of the swimline that they quickly acclimate to the transition. They may show the aversion again when they start LWL retrieves, but they have the foundation for alligatoring into the water and overcome the aversion quickly. In doing so, the positive reinforcement, intrinsic and/or extrinsic, they receive for completing the retrieve soon becomes the controlling force in their conditioning, and the aversion to the alligator entry is forgotten.
  • But Laddie took a different route. As a puppy, he invented a different solution to the problem of crossing the swimline: he would leap over it. His big air water entries looked like high-drive exuberance and were a joy to behold, but it's possible that for Laddie, they were primarily an avoidance behavior for the swimline transition.
  • Over time, the more Laddie did this, receiving additional positive reinforcement from the oohs and aahs of spectators, the more his aversion to swimline transitions grew. By the time he was a year old, he had entered the water thousands of times, and had almost never used an alligator entry.
  • Finally it was time to begin training LWL retrieves, in which Laddie could leap over the swimline on the send out, but had trouble with such a leap on the return. Perhaps the weight of the retrieval article made leaping more difficult. Or perhaps landing on the water with something in his mouth was uncomfortable or even painful. Whatever the reason, Laddie needed an alligator entry for the return, and that's what he had spent the first year of his life developing a phobia for.
As I mentioned, it took weeks of work to overcome that phobia, and it remains to be seen whether the job is yet done. I thought he was completely over it several days ago, but a couple of days later, it had returned almost as bad as before.

I would say the key to repairing it was Alice Woodyard's explanation to me of exactly what aspect of the LWL retrieve was causing Laddie the problem. I had watched him maroon on the far bank repeatedly, but until Alice explained it to me, I hadn't understood why it was happening.

Once I realized that it was because Laddie had never learned an alligator entry, I stopped working on full LWL retrieves and instead developed a sequence of drills that focused entirely on the swimline transition. Because of Laddie's strong reinforcement history avoiding such transitions, the project was long and complex. An example of a complexity was that even when Laddie could pick up a dummy and bring it straight into the water, he could not pick up a dummy behind him, then turn back to the water and bring it in. As Alice explained, he had developed picturitis, an aversion to a particular visual context, in this case, carrying an article and suddenly coming face to face with a water entry.

We've gradually encountered other complexities: retrieving a bird rather than a dummy; retrieving from a point further inland from the bank; encountering high cover at or near the shoreline; retrieving a mark thrown by someone else, rather than by me now waiting at the start line. As Laddie showed discomfort with each of those challenges, one by one we found ways to practice them until the difficulty appeared to have been solved.

Yet I suspect Laddie's swimline phobia still lurks under the surface, waiting to rear its head in some future context we've not yet proofed for, such as the excitement of a competitive event. My hope is that by then, Laddie will have experienced so much pleasure from completing LWL retrieves in other contexts that those feelings will take precedence over any fear that he again experiences. Time will tell if that's the case.

ARCHIVE: Guidelines for Training Day

Guidelines for Training Day


  • Bring:
    • – Birds for retrieve shaping
    • – High-value treats
  • White jacket
  • Load pockets: pistol, ammo


  • Key question: What is the best way to run each series in terms of benefit to the dog's training as a continuation of private training?
  • Do not run the dog unless confident that he will not rehearse any incorrect responses
  • If running:
    • – WS for distraction during returns (Laddie)
    • – No multiples for Laddie till solid on singles
    • – Practice line mechanics (see separate section)
    • – In FT series, run long gun last
    • – If using an auto-whistle, whistle early, as dog is pouncing on the bird
    • – Run only blinds within dog's capability based on private training
    • – Call dog to heel for slipped whistles
    • – Don't challenge early blinds
    • – No cheating water retrieves until shore-handling is trained
    • – Practice honoring


  • Creeping?
  • Attempted break?
  • Head swinging, before or after throws? Which throws?
  • Could the dog find the long gun?
  • Did dog return uncued? Auto-whistle? Contingent whistle? Voice? Walk out?
  • On blinds: Slipped whistles? Refused casts? Hunting by scent or sight?


  • Pay for flyer if used
  • Purchase birds if available

ARCHIVE: TO DO List Snapshot

TO DO List

  • Dinner
    • – Remote retrieve and return to SL
  • Hikes
    • – WS shaping
  • Solo/Land
    • – Come-in drill:
      • >> Daily, then weekly, then monthly till fluency established
    • – Triple blind:
      • >> Short blinds for Lumi to build confidence
      • >> Bird scent irrelevancy
      • >> Salience drill
      • >> Diversions and increasing distances to strengthen WS
      • >> At and inside tree line
      • >> Keyholes
      • >> Diagonals across roads
      • >> Obstacles such as logs, and multiple obstacles such as agility jumps
      • >> Hillsides
      • >> Water
    • – Remote retrieve and return to SL
    • – Holding blind and SL approach
    • – Heeling
  • Solo/Water
    • – Shore-handling toolkit
    • – Swim-by
    • – Diagonals across ditches
    • – Rewatch Lardy video:
      • >> Cheaters
      • >> Walk-arounds
      • >> Chinese singles
      • >> Cold blinds
    • – On-and-off point per Woodyard article
  • Thrower:
    • – Doubles, triples, quads
    • – Longer marks and blinds, including returning thru cover and dealing with other factors
    • – Occasional hip-pocket and other picture drills
    • – Looking to long gun
    • – Senior Hunt Test preparation:
      • >> Practice walk-ups
      • >> Practice with line gun
      • >> Practice multiples with HT line mechanics
    • – Practice walk-ups
    • – Practice with line gun
    • – L-W-L-W-L:
      • >> Last land
      • >> Intermediate point
      • >> Thrower on different point than fall

ARCHIVE: Marginal Notes from January 2008

The Holodeck Training Series

In December 2007, Lumi, Laddie, and I resumed group training, this time with a wonderful Field Trial group that meets on Sunday mornings at Rover's Content in Cheltenham, Maryland. Because we had previously group trained primarily with a Hunt Test group, I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to modify each set-up for our own needs.

By mid-January 2008, I realized that I could not successfully make such modifications spontaneously, simply by looking at the set-ups and deciding what needed to be changed. Instead, I needed to plan ahead for what we should work on each session, and then figure out that morning how to carry out that plan with the available set-up.

Alice Woodyard coined the term Holodeck Training to describe the process of modifying a group training set-up for individual needs. I use the term Holodeck Program for the training plan that I now prepare in advance each week to guide my modifications to the group set-up.

Accordingly, I've begun to journal our Holodeck Training sessions, including an advance posting of each session's Holodeck Program. I've also included some posts on our training away from the group.

ARCHIVE: Marginal Note from December 2007

December's Group Training

I originally planned the Field Training Test Series as private training for Lumi and Laddie, to be completed before the resumption of group training.

But in December 2007, I decided to resume group training for both dogs. While understanding that a dog may not perform in group training at the same level as in solitary work, and in competition even less so, I felt that we were ready to give group work another try.

My guidelines for this resumption of group training were shaped by correspondence with Jody Baker and Alice Woodyard, as follows:

• The first 2-3 sessions are run with dummies rather than birds. Hopefully, the dogs will have no difficulty picking up the dummies, uncued and without hesitation, and returning immediately with them.

• Then next dozen or so sessions are run with combinations of dead birds and dummies, with a minimum of one dummy per series. Other simplifications of group set-ups may include running as singles rather than multiples, changing the running order, skipping more difficult marks, or moving up the start line. For many set-ups, moving up is either not practical or is not advantageous, as it would make the mark more difficult for one reason or another, rather than less.

• After that, sessions are run with a flyer every four sessions, still retaining a minimum of one dummy per series.

• After a dozen or so successive flyer retrieves without difficulty on the pick-up or return, flyers can be used every session, and dummies are no longer used.

Entries for group training are mixed in with private test series entries in this journal.

ARCHIVE: Marginal Notes from November 2007

The Test Series

Lindsay's Field Training Test Series was designed as a series of tests intended to incrementally strengthen Lumi and Laddie's retrieving skills.

The tests are numbered with two digits. The first identifies the broad phase of testing, and indicates what retrieval articles are used in the test. The second digit indicates the difficultly level for each test within that phase.

Because of the cold weather, no swimming is included in this test series. A future series may be built upon land/water marks.

Lumi and Laddie are proceeding in tandem through the tests. Both dogs stay at the same test level until both have passed that test.

Each test consists of a series of three marks, run either as singles or as a triple. To pass each test, the dog must:

• Remain steady while the marks are thrown
• Run straight to the fall
• Pick up the article unhesitatingly without being cued
• Return to the start line at a canter or gallop
• Swing to heel, sit, and deliver the article to hand

The Test Phases

The first digit of each test number identifies the phase of testing, and specifies what articles are used for that phase. The phases are:

"1." Dummies are used for all three marks. We use black and white canvas dummies with a streamer, designed to improve marking ability.

"2." The first mark is a dead bird, the other two are dummies.

"3." The first mark is a live duck in a mesh duck sock, the second mark is a dead bird, and the third mark is a dummy.

"4." The first mark is a live shackled duck, the second mark is a live duck in a duck sock, and the third mark is a dead bird.

The Test Levels

Within each phase, the second digit of the test number indicates the level of difficulty. For this test series, these are the guidelines, subject to variation in the actual tests:

".1" Three single marks at 40, 120, and 80 yards in low cover

".2" Three single marks at 40, 120, and 80 yards in low cover plus a crossing through high cover or shallow water for the long mark

".3" Three single marks at 60, 180, and 120 yards in low cover

".4" Three single marks at 60, 180, and 120 yards in low cover plus multiple crossings through high cover or shallow water for the long mark

".5" Three single marks at 80, 240, and 160 yards in low cover

".6" Three single marks at 80, 240, and 160 yards in low cover plus multiple crossings through high cover or shallow water for the long mark

".7" A triple mark at 160, 240, and 80 yards in low cover plus multiple crossings through high cover or shallow water for the long mark

A Note on Blinds during the Test Series

I believe that it's good preparation for future competition that the dogs become accustomed to running blinds at the same time that they are running the marks in these tests. Performance on the blinds is not considered in whether the dog passes the test.

At this time in both dogs' field work, in most cases we're training handling with target blinds, that is, with no retrieval object, in order to prevent the whistle sit from declining.

Typically, we run the blinds as what I call a "pinball drill", a zigzag pattern of four poles totaling the distance noted for the blind. For example, a 90 yard blind would mean we were training with four poles separated by 30 yards. The dog is whistled to a sit at each pole, and then, after a pause of several seconds, is randomly either recalled, or cast on an angle back to the next pole.

A Note on Training Alone during the Test Series

Because we usually have no one to throw for us, these tests are being run as "poor man marks", meaning that, while the dog waits at the start line, I walk out to throw the marks and then walk back to send the dog.

One training benefit of poor man marks is that the dog works on steadiness.

Another training benefit is that, in effect, every gunner is retired. In the case of triples, the dog sits at the start line as I throw #1, then #2, then #3, and finally walk back to send the dog to #3, then #1, then #2. That's a long time to remember #1 and #2.

The major disadvantage I see is that the dog is rehearsing a different picture, and substantially less exciting picture, than what the dog will experience at training groups and competition.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Water Series, Ditches, Land Obstacles

Summary. At Cheltenham on a sunny day with temps in the low 90s and high humidity, we drove around from place to place on the property, each dog running various retrieves intended to build upon that dog's current training level. All work was with white dummies. Work included:
  • Three water series
  • Crossing ditches on an angle
  • Running over a mound both ways on land retrieves
Notes on Laddie's Water Series. For Laddie, each water series was a double:
  • #1: Cheater
  • #2: LWL retrieve
Laddie had no problem with any of the LWL retrieves. Perhaps he will revert to marooning at some point, but for today, that problem was behind us.

The cheaters each included one or more challenges, such as channels, swimming past points, and angle entries. The most difficult one today was this one:
I intended to throw the cheater dummy into the middle of a channel for a 70-yard mark, but the dummy hit some tree foliage and fell short. Laddie ran the LWL retrieve, and by the time I sent him out on the cheater, the dummy on the cheater drifted to within three yards of the bank. After taking the angle entry on the cheater, Laddie avoided a point at 40 yards out, swam to the dummy, and then turned toward the bank. Not waiting for him to swim to it, I blew WS, then cued Over toward the middle of the channel. Laddie took the cast and returned without any further flirting with the bank.
Notes on Lumi's Water Series. For Lumi, each water series was a double combining two cheaters that she used to have difficulty with but that today generally required no handling. An example of one mark in one of those series:
From the SL, Lumi made an angle entry, swam 70 yards past two points — the first on the right, the next on the left — crossed a strip of land, and entered a stickpond to swim another 20 yards to retrieve the dummy. The dummy was not visible after the throw until Lumi had crossed the strip of land. Lumi required no handling in either direction.
Lumi also had a 140-yard channel mark thru a stickpond with a difficult angle entry and the fall in an area of the pond she's found scary in the past. She required no handling until she got near the scary area, then, 120 yards from me, she swam to the bank and climbed up, ignoring my whistle. I left the SL and came up to a position 10 yards from her, then cued Over to cast her back into the water. I then returned to the SL and Lumi completed the retrieve without further handling.

Notes on Ditch Work. I had both dogs run a 45° angle to the left across a ditch, and a 45° angle to the right. On the first one, I tried running them with 10 yards between the SL and the bank down to the water. Both dogs squared the ditch. I concluded we needed more work sending the dogs from the edge of the embankment, which is how we ran last time and also how we ran the second retrieve today. With a little verbal guidance ("over"), both dogs did fine on the second retrieve.

Notes on Land Retrieves over Mounds. We used longer distances today, 70 yards between the SL and the mound, and 50 yards between the mound and the fall. Neither dog tried to cheat in either direction. Good progress, I thought.

Notes on Honoring. For today's work, both dogs were out of the van the entire time, one running while the other waited. If I didn't think there'd be much handling, as on the ditch retrieves and the land retrieves over the mounds, I had both dogs at the SL and one honored while the other ran. If I did think there'd be handling, I had the other dog lie in the shade some distance away. That seemed less confusing to the dog who wasn't running, compared to hearing handling cues while sitting beside me and not knowing whether to respond to them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Summary. At Cheltenham, a collection of cheating singles at various locations on the property.

Two of the cheaters were LWL, hopefully continuing to increase Laddie's comfort level with the entry into the water carrying a retrieval article. Today, most of the retrieves were with birds.

Lumi's cheaters in any one location were longer and/or tighter than Laddie's, and Laddie needed more handling. But I was able to use the same locations for both dogs, and both dogs did well.

For all of these, I had both dogs at the start line, and one would honor unsupervised while I ran the other one. Although that is convenient, I wonder if it's a good idea. If the dog hears "over", for example, and is supposed to ignore it when honoring, I wonder whether that might diminish the dog's responsiveness to "over" over a period of time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Swim-by, Water Series, Ditch Crossings

Summary. At Cheltenham, a session of drills and water series suitable for each dog's current level.


Notes on Laddie's work today:
  • Laddie had high quality swim-bys in both directions, which I believe means that he's now ready to begin work on cheating singles.
  • I used a different set-up for Laddie's swim-bys today than I've used with Laddie before, also different from the set-ups I used when Lumi was learning the swim-by. After putting him in a sit at the end of the channel we've been using as our "swim-by pond", I placed two white dummies on one side bank and two more on the other.
  • Laddie had a good day with LWL retrieves. We ran a number of LWL/Ds with ducks and dummies, also LWLW/Ds. We also ran one LWL single in a location of the property where we've never trained before. Laddie had no hesitation on any of the returns. This is similar to a stage he reached a couple of weeks ago, after which he had a relapse of marooning for several days that got gradually better. Hopefully he won't have another relapse. I wish I knew what caused it so I could avoid it. I suspect that I introduced too many LWL singles too soon, that he still relies on the LWL/D structure for motivation to complete his return instead of marooning. I also may have tried him on too wide a channel crossing, the bigger water perhaps intimidating him in that context.
  • Today's work included two short send-outs from the top of the bank of a ditch to a duck thrown to the shoreline on the other side of the ditch, one thrown 45° to the left, one 45° to the right. We'll gradually start further from the edge of the ditch, and throw the duck further, while making sure that the dog stays on line across the ditch.
  • Laddie had some singles in a couple of areas that Lumi finds scary, but they were not scary to Laddie. To the contrary, he seems to intentionally pass close to stumps and decoys, and to climb on underwater branches, even if they move under him, for fun.

Notes on Lumi's work today:
  • Lumi had several delayed cheaters — throw mark with cheating opportunities, retrieve a pre-positioned blind in a different direction, then retrieve mark — including one 140-yard swim. She's required no handling for several challenging cheating situations and responded well in most cases when handling was required. We still need to work on responsiveness at greater distances, with more triple land blinds.
  • Lumi had several blinds and singles across water that she finds scary, and is making good progress dealing with them. She still uses roundabout routes to avoid close contact with visible stumps, and is especially edgy about underwater debris.
  • Lumi had the same ditch work as Laddie, described above. In fact, they honored one another as the other worked.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hunt Test Training, Water Series

Summary. At Cheltenham, training with Bob Hux's Hunt Test group, then some solo work with Laddie afterwards:
  • Series A. Bob's land series (both dogs)
  • Series B. Bob's water series (both dogs)
  • Series C. Land-water-land (LWL) doubles (Laddie)
Series A. Set-up, left to right within a 150° angle:
  • #1: 50-yard mark (duck) thrown with winger
  • #4: 30-yard blind (duck) marked by lining pole
  • #3: 80-yard mark (duck) hand thrown, thru a low-lying segment with thick, hip-high cover and standing water
  • #2: 60-yard mark (flyer duck)
I ran Lumi first, then Laddie.

For Lumi, I moved our SL so that we were closer to the #2 than #1 and ran the following sequence:
  • Double: #1 (memory) - #2 (go)
  • Single: #3
  • Blind: #4
For Laddie, we ran the following sequence:
  • Singles: #2 - #1 - #3
  • Blind: #4
Series B. I ran Bob's Series B quite differently for Laddie than for Lumi.

For Laddie, I ran Series B as follows:
  • Double (both ducks): #1 was hand-thrown by me (as a poorman mark) into open water. #2 was thrown by a winger onto a hillside, with a narrow, shallow water crossing between the SL and the fall, 90° to the right of #1
  • Single (duck): An open-water retrieve
For Lumi, I ran Series B as follows:
  • Double (both ducks): #1 was hand-thrown into the water against the shore. #2 was thown by a winger onto a hillside, with a tempting bank-running opportunity along the left.
Series C. This was simply a sequence of five LWL/D drills like those described in previous posts. Each LWL/D is a poorman double:
  • #1: An open water retrieve made as tempting for Laddie as possible (in this case, I used canvas dummies with streamers and threw them into areas such as the stickpond where Laddie seems to especially enjoy swimming)
  • #2: A land-water-land retrieve
  • Although this is a Hunt Test group, I continued with my practice of requesting that the group throw marks for my dogs in Field Trial style: no duck call, fire gunshot before throwing, and stay visible. Some of the throwers seem unable to fire before throwing, but otherwise they seemed fine with my requests.
  • Bob set up #4 in Series A as a difficult 100-yard blind, with a diagonal road crossing and a diagonal ditch crossing. For both dogs, I moved up to eliminate the road crossing, so that the only challenge was the ditch crossing, which neither of my dogs has experience with.
  • Lumi did great on all marks. In particular, she ran both doubles with confidence, clearly remembering the location of the memory bird both times. She also required no handling to correctly run Series B, #2, without cheating.
  • Lumi was reluctant to enter the water filling the ditch both directions, so that's an area of the property I'd like to practice with Lumi in some more.
  • Laddie had a great send-out on the blind for Series A, crossing the embankments and water of the ditch on an angle and lining the blind. But he had trouble re-entering the water carrying the bird on the return, so that's something we need to practice.
  • Laddie showed some hesitation returning with the duck across the water on #1 of Series B, but came on Here.
  • Laddie did great on Series C and did not maroon on any of the LWL/Ds.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shore-handling Drills, Water Series, Land Obstacles, Land Doubles

Summary. At Cheltenham:
  • Series A. Shore-handling drills (Laddie)
  • Series B. Water series (Lumi)
  • Series C. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series D. Water series (Lumi)
  • Series E. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series F. Water series (both dogs)
  • Series G.Water series (Lumi)
  • Series H. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series I. Water series (Lumi)
  • Series J. Shore-handling drills (Laddie)
  • Series K. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series L. Mound work, including disciplined casting (both dogs)
  • Series M. Mound work (both dogs)
  • Series N. Poorman water marks (both dogs)
  • Series O. Poorman water marks (both dogs)
At Oaks five hours later:
  • Series P. Land double (both dogs)
  • Series Q. Land double (both dogs)
Series A. Today, Laddie had a little practice with T89, then ran four swim-by drills, alternating between right-to-left and left-to-right.

Series B. Today, Lumi ran a number of blind/cheater combinations, in which I threw the mark, then ran Lumi on the blind, and finally sent her to the mark. For this post, I'll call that combination a "delayed cheater".

For Series B, the set-up was as follows:
  • #1: Cheater: Single (dummy) into open water, requiring angle entry
  • #2: Blind: Orange dummy on mound near trees, LWL
Series C. Today, Laddie ran a number of water doubles, in which #1 (the memory "bird") was a canvas dummy thrown into open water, and #2 (the go "bird") was a white dummy thrown across water for a land-water-land retrieve. For this post, I'll call that combination an LWL/D.

Series C was Laddie's first LWL/D today, and he did a good job on it.

Series D. Delayed cheater for Lumi. The blind was at the S-curve, and Lumi showed more confidence than ever running a water blind in that location.

Series E. LWL/D for Laddie, and another good job.

Series F. The sequence for this series:
  1. Both dogs waited at the SL, marked by a lining pole.
  2. I walked over a foot bridge and out to a peninsula, threw one dummy into big water to the left, one into moderately big water to the right.
  3. I walked back to the SL, sent Laddie to second throw while Lumi honored unsupervised. He had to cross land and not bank-run the peninsula (to say nothing of not taking the footbridge). Return included water re-entry thru high grass. Laddie did fine, didn't even shake off on return land crossing.
  4. I sent Lumi to the first throw while Laddie honored unsupervised. The mark included a long swim and a point crossing. Lumi did fine, and she also didn't shake off on the return land crossing.
Series G. Delayed cheater for Lumi. The blind was thru a scary section of the stickpond to an orange dummy on the far bank.

Series H. LWL/D for Laddie. The LWL retrieve included pick-up and re-entry thru high cover, and this was a wider channel than most we practice on. Laddie shook off just before picking up the dummy, but never hesitated after that.

#1, the open-water retrieve memory "bird", was in a part of the stickpond that Lumi finds scary. Laddie intentionally climbed up on an underwater branch that moved under him as he pushed off. He seemed to think it was fun. Lumi avoids such branches like the plague.

Series I. Delayed cheater for Lumi. The blind was an LWLWL with a 40-yard land crossing as the last segment, and tempting cheating opportunities around both water segments. Lumi requires little to no handling for such segments these days. The cheater included an angle entry and a channel swim, requiring no handling in this case.

Series J. Laddie's water handling drills: A little more T89 practice, then more full swim-bys in both directions.

Series K. LWL/D for Laddie. The LWL was onto an island covered in tall grass. Laddie marooned there for 30 seconds, then responded to Here.

Series L. Mound work for both dogs, longest distances SL-to-mound and mound-to-fall so far. I ran Laddie first, then Lumi.

Laddie tried to cheat on the send out, took an angle Back cast over the mound. He then did cheat on the return, getting past the mound, but took impressive disciplined Back and Over casts to reposition him behind the mound, then a come-in over the mound. (Note: A disciplined cast is one in which the dog is carrying the retrieval article.)

Lumi also tried to cheat on the send out, and also took an angle Back over the mound. She also started to cheat on the return, and took a disciplined Over cast to reposition her behind the mound, then a come-in over the mound.

Series M. This series was similar to Series L, but the distances were shorter while the angle of the mound made for a narrower crossing. Both dogs traversed the middle of the mound in both directions.

Series N. Poorman singles into open water past a point. Lumi first, then Laddie, each dog honoring the other.

Series O. Poorman singles across channel (LWL), Lumi first, then Laddie, each dog honoring the other. Laddie looped five yards to a different re-entry point on the return but otherwise had a solid return.

Series P. This was a simple land double, with son Eric and neighbor Bryan throwing white dummies into concealing cover. Left to right within a 30° angle:
  • #2: 90-yard mark
  • #1: 170-yard mark
With both dogs at the SL, I ran Lumi first, then Laddie, the other dog honoring unsupervised.

Lumi ran #2 (the go "bird") well, but seemed to have no idea where the fall for #1 was. I haven't taught Bryan how to help the dog as a thrower, so I felt the best choice was for me to attempt to handle Lumi to the fall. Unfortunately, Lumi has become unresponsive to handling cues at those distances — that's why we've been running shorter land triples recently — and eventually I had to get within 100 yards of her before I could handle her to the fall effectively.

Laddie did well. Here's a video of Laddie on Series P, shot by Eric from his #2 throwing position:

Series Q. Since Lumi had trouble with the 170-yard mark in Series P, I thought we'd run a shorter double for Series Q, in the same field but at a different location. Again, Eric and Bryan threw white dummies into concealing cover. Left to right, within a 30° angle:
  • #1: 110-yard mark
  • #2: 70-yard mark
With both dogs again at the SL, this time I ran Laddie first, then Lumi, the other dog honoring unsupervised.

Laddie marked well on both throws, but on the memory mark (#1), he wandered off line during his return. It looked as though he was looking for a location to eliminate so I didn't attempt to handle him, but eventually he just stopped and stood there, looking around. A thunderstorm had started a few miles away and the sky was filled with lightning flashes, which may have caught his attention. I don't have any other explanation, I've never seen him do this before. As soon as I called Here, he came running.

I then ran Lumi, whose returns were slower than I would have liked but otherwise ran well. Here's a video of Lumi on Series Q, shot by Eric from his #1 throwing position:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Swim-by, Shore-handling Toolkit, Water Blinds, Cheaters, Long Swim, Land Obstacles

Summary. At Cheltenham:
  • Series A. Swim-by and shore-handling toolkit Tools #8 & #9 (Laddie)
  • Series B. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series C. Water series (Lumi)
  • Series D. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series E. Water series (Lumi)
  • Series F. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series G. Water series (Lumi)
  • Series H. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series I. Long swim (Laddie)
  • Series J. Mound work (both dogs)
Series A. I felt that Laddie might be ready to perform a true swim-by as long as the last step was right to left, so this is what we ran:
  1. With Laddie at heel and both of at the end of the channel we're using as our swim-by pond, I cue Back and Laddie leaps into the water and begins swimming straight down the channel.
  2. When Laddie is 10 yards distant, I blow WS, and when Laddie turns to face me, I cue Over toward the left bank.
  3. As Laddie begins to swim in that direction, I throw a white dummy onto the grass in front of Laddie.
  4. When Laddie climbs up, shakes off, and picks up the dummy, I again blow WS.
  5. When Laddie faces me, I cue Over back into the water and toward the left bank.
  6. Laddie, carrying the dummy, enters the water, swims across and past me (giving this drill the name "swim-by"), climbs up onto the left bank.
  7. As Laddie is climbing up, I move a little to the left so that Laddie can run in a straight path to me to deliver the dummy without "cheating" around the water.
  8. When Laddie delivers the dummy, big party.
Laddie ran the above sequence today. I felt good about his performance, but it was somewhat imprecise and I feel he can do better with more practice.

Oddly, Laddie is not yet ready to do the swim-by left-to-right, so we practiced the same combination of T89 that we've been working on. Today, Laddie was able to complete the last stage of the swim-by if the dummy was waiting for him into the water only a yard away from the left bank, while his SL was five yards inland from there.

Series B, D, F, H. Because Laddie has relapsed on his LWL picturitis, I had him run two poorman doubles and two poorman singles. The doubles consisted of:
  • #1: Duck in open water
  • #2: LWL retrieve
The singles were also LWL retrieves.

Laddie's picturitis still results in delayed returns and in one case marooning, but he had some improvement from Friday. He is still not back to what I thought was near fluent performance a few days ago. I wonder why he had this relapse.

Series C.
  • #1: Water blind LWL, 40 yards on final land crossing
  • #2: Cheater: LWLWLW
Series E.
  • #1: Water blind LWL at S-curve
  • #2: Cheater: long LWLWL
Series G.
  • #1: Water blind LWL: mound, 50 yards to angle entry, channel swim hugging right bank, across T-channel, bird on far bank
  • #2: Poorman single: mound, 40 yards to steep embankment, down to ditch, scary water entry, across ditch, bird on far embankment
Series I. Hopefully soon, Laddie will be running similar water series to those Lumi is running, and when that time comes, he'll need to swim longer distances than he's currently practicing on his water series. To help prepare, I included a long swim for Laddie, using a 100-yard poorman single in open water.

Series J. Today we continued practicing running to poorman marks thrown on the far side of mulch mounds, increasing the distance both from the SL to the mound and from the mound to the fall. Each dog had one retrieve facing the mound from the side, and one retrieve facing the mound from the end, resulting in a narrower obstacle more tempting to run around.

Lumi, who has been practicing going over obstacles rather than around them since before Laddie was born, had little difficulty with the retrieves. Laddie is not as consistent on the concept yet.

On the last throw, Laddie ran around the mound and I called him back to heel. When I sent him again and he ran around again, I called him back part way, then used a WS and angle Back to cast him over the mound.

I felt good about Laddie's last retrieve, for several reasons:
  • Twice, he responded to recall when more than halfway to the dummy.
  • His WS on the partial come-in was excellent.
  • He took the cast correctly.
  • I believe the experience added to understanding that when an obstacle is in the way, go over it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Land Blinds

Summary. At Milestone:
  • Series A. Land blind triple (both dogs)
Series A. Today's land series was set-up as follows, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #3: 90-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #1: 50-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #2: 70-yard blind (orange dummy)
Both dogs lined #1 and #2: Laddie, running first, required 0-0-2 WSCs. Lumi required 0-0-1 WSCs.

Both dogs were also responsive on both the whistle sits and the casts, though Lumi's sit was more looping.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shore-handling Toolkit, Water Blinds, Cheaters, Land Obstacles, Land Blinds

Summary. At Cheltenham:
  • Series A. Work on Tools #8 and #9, followed by an LWL double (Laddie)
  • Series B. Water blind combined with a a cheater (Lumi)
  • Series C. Poorman singles over mounds (both dogs)
Note: Although Series A and B are listed sequentially, we actually ran one Series A, then one Series B, the another Series A, then another Series B, and finally one more session on Tools #8 and #9.

At Oaks Area 2:
  • Series D. Land blinds (both dogs)
Notes on Series A. Laddie is making good progress on our swim-by preparation with Tools #8 and #9 (T89), but unfortunately he has declined some on his LWL retrieves.

Laddie has consistently performed better on the right-to-left version of our T89 drill than the left-to-right version, but he is progressing on both. His best performance RTL today was as follows:
  1. I positioned Laddie 10 yards from the shoreline.
  2. I placed a dummy on the bank next to the shoreline.
  3. I moved to the end of the channel and cued Over.
  4. Laddie ran to the dummy and picked it up, continued with his momentum into the pond, and swam across the pond and past me to the opposite shore, climbed out and ran to me with the dummy.
Laddie's best performance LTR today was as follows:
  1. I positioned Laddie 10 yards from the shoreline.
  2. I thew the dummy about 7 yards into the pond, halfway across.
  3. I moved to the end of the channel, shading toward the right, and cued Over.
  4. Laddie ran to the bank and leaped in, swam to the dummy and picked it up, continued with his momentum across the pond and past me to the opposite shore, climbed out and ran to me with the dummy.
I'm not sure why Laddie is once again having trouble with LTL retrieves. Today he marooned two or three times, even though I'd thrown another dummy into open water for him to retrieve when he arrived back from the LTL. Next session, I'll try it using a bird in open water.

Notes on Series B.
Lumi's water blinds were across a ditch filled with vegetation and branches, and on the S-curve where she's had problems in the past. She was successful but edgy crossing the ditch, and lined the S-curve.

Lumi's first cheater was an LWLW with the last water being a stick pond and swimming close to a point. Her second cheater was an LWLW with the first water being a long swim.

Notes on Series D.
Since both dogs did well on yesterday's land blinds at 30-50-70 yards, today I ran them on this set-up, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #3: 80-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #2: 60-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #1: 40-yard blind (orange dummy)
All blinds were marked with a surveyors flag, and none were in line with any salient landmark.

Both dogs lined #1, required handling on #2 and #3. Laddie required only a single WSC on each, while Lumi required more, especially on #2 because she had trouble pushing through some rough terrain and repeatedly interpreted Back as Over. Both dogs showed good-to-excellent response on their whistle-sits, and in most cases responded well to casts as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shore-handling Toolkit, Water Blinds, Cheaters, Land Obstacles, Land Blinds

Summary. At Cheltenham:
  • Series A. Continued work on Tools #8 and #9 (Laddie)
  • Series B. Water blinds (Lumi)
  • Series C. Cheating singles (both dogs)
  • Series D. Land-water-land (LWL) retrieves (Laddie)
  • Series E. Land retrieves over a mound (both dogs)
Note: Although the list above appears sequential, our work actually alternated among various setups for Series B, C, D, with Series A at the beginning and Series E at the end.

At Oaks Area 2:
  • Series F. Land blinds (both dogs)

Note on Series C. This was Laddie's second day of cheaters, with two in one location and two in another. Both presented a channel picture, and the second also included an angle water entry.

Lumi's cheaters were more difficult, of course, and included an LWLW with points on both sides as one retrieve, and a long swim beside a shoreline only a few yards to Lumi's left as another.

Both dogs did well on all their cheaters, either not requiring handling or responding well when handling was needed.

Note on Series D. Today I learned that Laddie is not as reliable on LWL retrieves as I had thought. Apparently, running doubles provides enough motivation that he appears fluent, but when I tried singles this morning, he marooned in a couple of situations that he had seemed fine on with doubles.

I'll try using doubles again to restore confidence, and then mixing in occasional singles until Laddie handles them as well in isolation as in combination with other retrieves.

Notes on Series F. Since both dogs, but especially Lumi, need brushing up on their responsiveness to whistle sits and casts on land blinds, I ran Laddie, then Lumi on the following set-up, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #1: 30-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #2: 50-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #3: 70-yard blind (orange dummy)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Shore-handling Toolkit, Water Blinds, Cheaters, Water Series, Land Series


At Cheltenham in the morning:
  • Series A. Continued work on Tools #8 and #9 (Laddie)
  • Series B. Water blind (Lumi)
  • Series C. Happy throws in ditch with underwater debris (both dogs)
  • Series D. Water blind (Lumi)
  • Series E. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series F. Water blind (Lumi)
  • Series G. Cheating singles (Laddie)
At Sundown Road Park in the afternoon, with Nate throwing:
  • Series H. A land series consisting of four blinds and three marks (both dogs)
Series A. Since Laddie hasn't progressed as fast I would have liked in carrying a dummy across and channel and past me standing at the end of the channel, especially left to right in the swim-by pond we've been using, I came up with a couple of approaches that might help him progress faster.

First, I tried setting up two poles on the grass near the pond and casting Over back and forth between them. What I found was that Laddie could easily take the casts as long as he wasn't carrying a dummy, but that he had difficulty diverting away from me if he was carrying a dummy.

That gave me an idea for a way to work with Laddie in the pond, as follows:
  1. Walk with Laddie to the right pole, cue Sit, then throw dummy into water almost all the way across the pond.
  2. With Laddie waiting at right pole, walk to end of channel, face Laddie, and cue Over.
  3. Laddie leaps in water, swims to dummy, continues swimming in same direction, climbs up onto the bank, and runs to me with the dummy.
  4. On subsequent trials, throw the dummy shorter distances, until eventually Laddie makes the same swim across even if the dummy is placed on the ground in front of him, or the dummy is placed in his mouth, or eventually if he swims to it from the center of the pond in the full swim-by drill.
Today, we did steps 1-3 from both directions. In the future, we'll gradually implement step 4.

Series B. This was Lumi's most complex water blind to date, an LWLWL with a duck that included a stickpond as the second water crossing.

Series C. This series consisted of happy throws into a ditch with plants and branches both above and below the surface for both dogs. Laddie had little trouble with them, while Lumi needed more time to enter the obstructed water at first.

Series D. This was a water blind Lumi had difficulty with when we ran it once before. It consisted of a water crossing to a duck on the far bank, at a position where the channel makes an S-curve. Apparently the positions of the land confuse Lumi and she tends to swim online about halfway, then veers left or right and has difficulty accepting a Back cast, instead wanting to swim back and forth as if every cast was an Over.

Lumi had less difficulty today than the previous time. I plan to practice this same blind with her in subsequent sessions until she becomes comfortable with it. If I can find another S-curve, we'll practice in that location, too.

Series E. Series E was a poorman double for Laddie, left to right in a 90° angle:
  • #2 (go bird): LWLW across an island covered in tall grass (duck)
  • #1 (memory bird): LWLW across a wetland mass of high grass (white dummy)
Laddie performed accurately and exuberantly.

Series F. Series F was a water blind with a duck for Lumi across a stickpond with underwater debris, an area where Lumi has repeatedly shown discomfort. I used gradually lengthening happy throws to get her acclimated to the crossing, then cued Back for the blind, which she executed well.

Series G. Although Laddie has not completed his swim-by training, I feel he is ready to begin cheating singles while we continue with the swim-by simultaneously. Today, Laddie had three cheaters as follows:
  1. I positioned Laddie, using a lining pole as our SL, so that when sent, he would cross a dirt road and then 10 yards of grass. That would bring him to a horizontal water entry at the end of a channel 20 yards across.
  2. For the first throw, I walked to the right side of the channel and threw a duck into the middle of the channel, 10 yards from the end. I then walked back to Laddie and sent him.
  3. For the second throw, I walked to the left side of the channel and again threw the duck into the middle of the channel, this time 20 yards from the end.
  4. For the third throw, I threw from the right again, this time to a fall 30 yards from the end of the channel.
On the first two throws, Laddie took a direct line without handling. On the third throw, he started to run around the water to the right. I blew WS, cued a come-in, again blew WS when he reached the end of the channel, and cued Over into the water. Laddie showed excellent response to each WS and cast.

Series H. Series H was a land series on the ball fields at Sundown Road Park, with Nate throwing. The set-up, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #1: 120-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #3: 110-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #2: 90-yard mark (bird), thrown left to right over the line (TOL) to #3
  • #7: 170-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #6: 120-yard mark (bird), thrown left to right away from the line (TAL) to #7
  • #4: 140-yard mark (bird), thrown left to right toward the line (TTL) to #5
  • #5: 150-yard blind (orange dummy)
I ran Lumi first, then Laddie. Notes:
  • Both dogs did great on the marks.
  • As I've seen the last few sessions of land blinds including today's, Lumi's handling at these distances is no longer satisfactory. She repeatedly slips whistles, refuses casts, or takes a cast and then digs back. I feel we need to work at shorter distances and build up Lumi's responsiveness again.
  • Laddie's handling has deteriorated some from when we were concentrating on land series like this day after day, but his handling is still reasonably good and spectacularly responsive much of the time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Marks and Blinds

  • Series A. At Oaks Area 2 in the morning, a triple blind (both dogs)
  • Series B. At Oaks Area 1 in the afternoon with Eric throwing, a land series (both dogs)
Note: Oaks Area 1 is my name for the area next to the nearby Oaks Landfill that we've used for months. Area 2 is the large area closer to MD-108, an area where we haven't trained before but started using yesterday afternoon.

Series A. The set-up for Series A, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #3: 160-yard blind (duck)
  • #2: 130-yard blind (orange dummy)
  • #1: 100-yard blind (orange dummy)
All blinds were marked with surveyors flags, and were positioned in an open field. Only #1 had a well-defined target behind it, a prominent tree 50 yards further on.

I ran Laddie first, then Lumi. Laddie needed several whistle-sit-casts (WSCs) to complete the series, and was responsive on all of them. Lumi's responsiveness was not as good, making me feel that she needs some cold blinds at shorter distances to build her confidence.

Series B. The set-up for Series B, left to right within a 90° angle:
  • #3: 150-yard mark (white dummy), thrown by Eric toward #4
  • #4: 150-yard blind (duck), marked by surveyors flag
  • #2: 100-yard mark (white dummy), thrown by Eric toward #1
  • #1: 100-yard blind (duck), marked by flagging on nearby chainlink fence
I ran Laddie first, then Lumi.

Both dogs did great on the two marks.

On the blinds, Laddie lined #1, then took one WSC for #4. Lumi dug back along the fence on #1 and needed several WSCs, with poor responsiveness, later lined #4. I would say that despite Lumi's difficulty with #1, ducks are too easy and do not really exercise the dog's handling ability. On the other hand, I think they build motivation for the game, so I like using them occasionally instead of a constant diet of orange dummies.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Water Series, Shore-handling Toolkit, Cheater

Summary. At Cheltenham:
  • Series A. Water series (Laddie)
  • Series B. Water series (Lumi)
  • Series C. Continued work on Tools #8 and #9 (Laddie)
  • Series D. Cheater (Lumi)
Series A. This was a poorman double for Laddie:
  • #1: LWL
  • #2: LWLW
Series B. This series consisted of an LWLWL poorman mark with the dummy on an angled shoreline, and a water blind.

Lumi showed distinct aversion to the point, even though she is trained with 2Q methods. I thought the similarity to 4Q dogs, who are typically taught with an ecollar to stay off points, was striking.

In retrospect, I decided it had been a mistake to plant the blind on a point. It is probably good that Lumi is reluctant to go to a point and has learned to prefer to swim past it, and it was probably not a useful lesson to show her that in this case I wanted her to break that rule.

Series C. This was continued work for Laddie on shore-handling toolkit Tools #8 and #9, which is the last step of a swim-by.

Series D. This was a long cheater past a point to restore Lumi's confidence in her understanding that, at least in most cases, I don't want her to divert to a point when she is swimming past one.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Water Series, Shore-handling Toolkit

Summary. At Cheltenham, with Eric throwing and videotaping:
  • Series A, B, C. Water series (both dogs)
  • Series D. Continued work on toolkit Tools #8 and #9 (Laddie)
Series A, B, C. As on previous days, we set up in three separate locations, and each location, each dog had two retrieves. Today's set-ups were structured differently for Lumi, who ran first at each location, than for Laddie, who ran second.


For Lumi's set-ups today, I used the following structure:
  • Lumi watches as gunshot is fired and white dummy is thrown on relatively challenging land/water mark
  • I send Lumi in a different direction to retrieve a blind
  • I send Lumi to retrieve the mark thrown earlier
For Series A and B, Eric threw the mark, while for Series C, I went out to throw the mark myself while Eric videotaped.

For Series A and B, the blinds were orange dummies set at relatively short distances with no water crossings nor other significant factors. Neither was marked, but both were in front of a prominent tree.

For Series C, the mark (a white dummy) was on land beyond a channel crossing, while the line to the blind (a duck) was thru a ditch containing plants, floating branches, and additional underwater debris, the kind of water crossing Lumi is fearful of. For the blind, Lumi did a nice job of entering the water and completing the crossing to the bird with no need for additional prompting after the initial Back cue, and showed courage in persevering after feeling herself attacked by a branch that moved when she stepped on it in the water. After picking up the bird, Lumi climbed to the top of the embankment with the clear intent of running around the end of the ditch to complete the retrieve, but responded well when I cued her to return back thru the ditch.

On the mark for Series C, Lumi required only one cue to complete the retrieve correctly, a whistle-sit-cast (WSC) into the water when I thought she was beginning to cheat around the channel on the send out. As she was sitting, I realized that she may have been intending to enter the water anyway, but in any case, she responded well to my cue to do so. She then remained clear of the land on both sides of the channel the rest of the way out and all the way back in without additional cueing.

Here's a video of Lumi's Series C:


Laddie had several LWL retrieves today's three series. The retrieves included singles and doubles, and white dummies thrown by Eric as well as poorman marks thrown by me, sometimes a dummy, sometimes a duck.

Series C, for example, was a poorman double with Eric videotaping:
  • #1 (thrown first, retrieved last): Dummy thrown across wide channel into grass tall enough to hide the dummy
  • #2 (thrown second, retrieved first): Duck thrown across a ditch
In contrast to Lumi, on #2, Laddie had no difficulty entering the ditch that Lumi finds scary, and performed a nice retrieve of the duck. He then seemed game to run #1, but was apparently confused by presense of the water and unsure which side the dummy had been thrown onto. First, I tried calling him back to heel and sending him again. When he again appeared confused, I blew a WS and cast him into the water. I was pleased with his good-looking response to the WSC, especially considering his age and inexperience with shore handling.

Here's a video of Laddie's Series C, showing his progress on LWL retrieves. Unfortunately, the camera angle prevents seeing Laddie on the WSC, but his head is just visible above the crest as he sits and then takes the cast:

Series D. Today Laddie completed four more repetitions of swimming from one lining pole to the other across the area we're using as a swim-by pond at Cheltenham. As on previous days, we alternated back and forth right to left and left to right, two reps in each direction.

Today Laddie showed improved understanding of the left lining pole as the destination for his right to left reps, and continued to respond on his left to right reps to prompts to divert away from me and toward the right lining pole. His execution of the actual tools we were working on, Over-LTW-W and Over-WTL-W, remained excellent.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Land/water Doubles, Shore-handling Toolkit

Summary. At Cheltenham, with son Eric helping:
  • Series A, B, C. Poorman land/water doubles (both dogs)
  • Series D. Continued work on toolkit Tools #8 and #9 (Laddie)
Series A, B, C. Once again, Eric came to throw for us so that Laddie could continue to develop fluency when a thrower is involved. As on previous days, we set up in three locations, and in each location, created a different set up for each dog. Today, Laddie ran first in each location, then Lumi.


Each of Laddie's series was a double set-up as follows:
  • #1 (first thrown, second retrieved): A retrieve that I expected Laddie to find easy, thrown by me after a gunshot
  • #2 (second thrown, first retrieved): An LWL retrieve thrown by Eric
Laddie had no problem with any of the #1 marks. His performance on the #2 marks was as follows:
  • Series A: Laddie returned to water's edge, then ran along the bank for 10 yards until I called Here. He then entered the water and delivered.
  • Series B: Laddie picked up the dummy and began to run around the water on the crescent of land that ran beside it. I blew WS, then cued an angle-in. He responded perfectly, sitting, then entering the water and swimming back to deliver the dummy.
  • Series C: Laddie picked up the dummy on the run, then spun around, ran straight back to the water, entered and completed the retrieve. This was especially nice to see because the shoreline was fringed with tall grass.

Each of Lumi's series was set-up as follows:
  • #1: A pre-positioned water blind intended to be easy for Lumi to execute
  • #2: A cheating single thrown by Eric, intended to require some handling
For Series A, the running order was #1-#2.

For Series B and C, #2 was thrown, then Lumi was sent to #1, and finally Lumi was sent to #2.

Unfortunately, I guessed wrong on all three blinds, and all of them required considerable handling. In addition, I also guessed wrong on all three marks and they all required more handling than I had expected. Hopefully, my judgment tomorrow will be more accurate.

Series D. Today's Series D was virtually identical to yesterday's. Laddie has not yet grasped the idea of swimming to the lining pole and instead swims toward me once he enters the water. However, once he gets near me he is responsive to visual and verbal Over cues signaling for him to divert toward the lining pole. Hopefully, with additional practice he will come to understand that as his original destination. In the meantime, his version of Tools #8 and #9 are still useful, since in practice, the goal is for him to enter the water and deliver the retrieval article to me, and that is exactly what he's trying to do.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Land/water Doubles, Shore-handling Toolkit

Summary. At Cheltenham, with son Eric helping:
  • Series A, B, C. Poorman land/water doubles (both dogs)
  • Series D. Continued work on toolkit Tools #8 and #9 (Laddie)
Series A, B, C. Because Laddie has marooned on LTL retrieves at group training on marks comparable to ones where he no longer maroons in solo training, I asked Eric to come throw for us so that Laddie could develop fluency when a thrower is involved. As on previous days, we set up in three locations, and in each location, created a different set up for each dog. Today, all of the set-ups followed this design:
  • #1 (the memory bird): A tempting, open water mark thrown by me from a position marked by a stickman, using a duck. I would fire a pistol, throw the duck, then return to the dog to call for the second throw.
  • #2 (the go bird): A challenging mark thrown by Eric, using a white dummy. Eric would fire a pistol, then throw.
For Laddie, #1 was a non-cheating mark and #2 was always an LWL retrieve. Laddie had no difficulty with any of the doubles.

For Lumi, #1 was a long cheating mark that she was unlikely to cheat on, and #2 was an LWLW thru channel with dense debris for Series A, an LWLWLW for Series B, and an LWLW with the fall invisible from the SL for Series C. All of the #2 marks required significant handling, and Series B finally required me to call Lumi back to me, then walk her around to a closer point and send her from there. As soon as she had the dummy, I ran back to the original SL and she had no difficulty with her return and delivery.

An example that I think illustrates Lumi's current level was on Series B, #2. After Lumi crossed the strip of land between the two water segments, she was not visible to me for some time. The dummy was well on the far side of the channel and well to the right. If Lumi had wanted to run the bank, she would have crossed straight over to the far shore, then run the bank to the dummy. She also could have done that on the return. If she had done it on the way out, I wouldn't have been able to see it or try to handle her until she was nearly across.

But as I watched the visible area of the channel after Lumi disappeared behind the embankment, she finally came back into view. I was pleased to see that she was on a line from her water entry point directly to the dummy. I was again pleased when she arrived at the far shore, picked up the dummy, and entered the water immediately, swimming back the way she'd come, directly toward me, despite the bank running option and also a point she could have diverted to on the way back. She then crossed the strip of land and again entered the water on a direct line back to me, despite bank running options on both sides of the pond she was entering.

Lumi seems to be gaining a nice understanding of how to stay on a straight route in the presence of cheating opportunities.

Series D. For Laddies work on Tool #8, Over-LTW-W, combined with Tool #9, Over-WTL-W, I placed a lining pole on each side of the pond we used for Lumi's swim-by a few days ago, and where we'll also do Laddie's swim-by. I then had him make four crossings, alternating between left to right and right to left. For each crossing:
  1. I placed Laddie in a sit at one of the lining poles with a dummy between him and the water.
  2. I walked around to the other side, stopping 6' before I got to the lining pole on that side.
  3. I cued Over verbally and visually.
  4. Laddie pounced on the dummy, then quickly entered the water and began swimming toward me.
  5. I repeatedly cued Over as he was swimming, gradually influencing him to veer away from me and toward the other lining pole.
  6. When he came out of the water near the lining pole, I cued Sit, then cheered and ran over to engage him in play.
Hopefully in the next few sessions, I'll be able to move further and further from the target lining pole, eventually holding my position at the end of the channel and letting Laddie swim by me from one pole to the other. Next would be to remove the poles, and finally backchain the earlier steps of a full swim-by.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Water Marks, Water Blinds, Shore-handling Toolkit

Summary. At Cheltenham:
  • Series A. Water double (Laddie)
  • Series B. Water double (Lumi)
  • Series C. Water double and happy throws (Laddie)
  • Series D. Water double and happy throws (Lumi)
  • Series E. Singles and happy throws (Lumi)
  • Series F. Water double (Laddie)
  • Series G. Triple water blind (Lumi)
  • Series H. Shore-handling toolkit Tool #7 with remote handling (Laddie)
  • Series I. Shore-handling toolkit Tool #8 (Laddie)
Series A. Poorman double for Laddie:
  • #1 (thrown first, retrieved last): Open water stickpond (dummy)
  • #2 (thrown second, retrieved first): LWL (duck)
Series B. Poorman double for Lumi:
  • #1: Open water stickpond (duck)
  • #2: Scary swim in ditch (dummy)
Series C. Poorman double for Laddie:
  • #1: Open water stickpond, swimming thru high cover (dummy)
  • #2: LWL onto island covered in high grass (duck)
Also, happy throws of dummy and duck onto and over the island.

Series D.
Poorman double for Lumi:
  • #1: Open water (duck)
  • #2: Scary swim in stickpond (dummy)
Also, happy throws of dummy and duck into scary area of the stickpond.

Series E.
Happy throws and poorman singles into another scary water crossing (duck)

Series F.
Poorman double for Laddie:
  • #1: Open water (dummy)
  • #2: LWL across wider channel than previously (duck)
The channel was wide enough that I had to walk around the end of the channel to throw the duck, the walk back to the SL to handle.

Series G.
At Alice's suggestion, I began working running Lumi on water blinds today. Her first three water blinds since beginning our work on shore-handling were in three separate locations, all performed with a duck as the retrieval article:
  • #1: An easy blind across a channel.
  • #2: Bird was placed in the midst of a small cluster of trees on land. Route was LWL, with the water being a small slice of a rounded pond. Lumi made no effort to cheat around the pond.
  • #3: Bird was placed on the far shore of a horizontal channel crossing. That channel forms a T with a vertical channel crossing. Our SL was at the end of the vertical channel, but shaded toward one edge. That gave Lumi an angle entry to the vertical channel, a 40-yard diagonal swim up the channel and past a point to the bird. Though the point was only 5' to the right of Lumi's line to the bird, she made no effort to divert to the point.
We've never run any of these water blinds as marks. I thought Lumi did a great job on them.

Series H. Today we continued work on toolkit Tool #7, Over-LTW-W/O. Previously Laddie would not enter the water until I threw the dummy unless I was right in front of him. Today we practiced with me ten yards in front of him cueing Over, then throwing the dummy once he was in.

Series I. After success with Tool #7, we worked on Tool #8, Over-LTW-W:

It turns out that this was easy for Laddie, both right-to-left and left-to-right.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hunt Test Training

  • Series A. At Cheltenham, Bob's land/water series
  • Series B. At Cheltenham, Bob's water series

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Land/water Doubles, Shore-handling Toolkit

  • Series A, B, C. At Cheltenham, three poorman land/water doubles (both dogs)
  • Series D. At Cheltenham, beginning work on Tool #7, Over-LTW-W/O (Laddie)
Conditions. We started at 7:30 AM, but it was already getting hot. The day ended up in the high 90s with humidity pushing the perceived temp to 110.

Series A, B, C. Once again, I set up a poorman double for each dog at three separate locations, running Lumi first, then Laddie in each series. The structure of each double was as follows:
  • #1: A relatively easy retrieve
  • #2: A challenging retrieve
For Lumi, #2 involved swimming past nearby points without diverting to them, or swimming along a shoreline without veering over to it.

For Laddie, #2 involved land-water-land retrieves. Laddie has made great progress in that area. Today, he picked up the dummy and came straight back with every one, without dawdling on any of them. For Laddie, today's #1 retrieves were land retrieves of a duck.

Series D.
After we completed the Series A, B, and C, I worked with Laddie for the first time on shore-handling toolkit Tool #7, Over-LTW-W/O. Here's the diagram from the standard set of diagrams I created for the toolkit:

In today's work, our set-up was different, as follows:
  • I positioned Laddie in a sit at the end of a point, while I stood immediately in front of him. Over meant entering the water on one side of the point or the other.
  • I cued Over verbally and with the standard arm movement, holding a dummy tucked under my other arm.
  • When Laddie crossed what I call the swimline (that is, crossed from shallow water to swim depth), I threw the dummy over his head so that it landed in front of him.
  • As Laddie was pouncing on the dummy, I blew a recall whistle.
  • When Laddie delivered at heel, I tossed the dummy for him and cued Shake.
  • Laddie shook off and came running back with the dummy, and we played a game of tug.
  • I then fronted Laddie again for the next Over. I focused on Over left t0 right today, using right to left for variety if I felt Laddie might be getting a little distracted.
Although that was the main procedure, we used others as well, such as Over to the right and then, as Laddie came out of the water, immediately cueing Over to the left, continuing back and forth a few times.

In comparison to Lumi, who was able to execute Tool #7 without training, Laddie had difficulty with it. He would always take the initial Over cue from his sitting position to the shoreline, but then he would usually stop and look at me, waiting for me to throw the dummy, at the shoreline, the swimline, or both.

I tried several ways of getting him to take the Over cue into swim-depth water without stopping. For example:
  • When Laddie stopped, I tried waiting without any prompting. That was generally unsuccessful, as eventually Laddie would begin to come back toward me and onto shore rather than completing his send-out into the water.
  • When Laddie stopped, I tried calling him back, slipping on his lead, and running the same drill with Lumi a few times. That also seemed ineffective as a training method, since Laddie did not improve even after I tried that strategy several times.
Finally, I found a procedure that worked, a procedure I would characterize as errorless learning (EL). Each time Laddie stopped for more than a second or so, I prompted with Over, more than once if necessary. Eventually, Laddie would cross the line where he had stalled. Over several retrieves, Laddie's performance gradually improved, requiring fewer and fewer prompts and on one retrieve near the end of our session, no prompts at all were needed.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Easy Day

Today, because I was involved in other activities, the dogs and I didn't work on any of the items on our TO DO list. Our only training was open water retrieves at Black Hill, typically run as follows:
  1. One dog is at heel on my right, the other on my left.
  2. I step away from both dogs, either to the left or the right, and throw a dummy into the water at an outward angle.
  3. I move to the other side of the dogs and throw a second dummy into the water at the opposite outward angle.
  4. I move back to the dogs and send one of them to the last dummy thrown.
  5. I then send the other dog to the first dummy thrown.
  6. As each dog delivers at heel, I throw the dummy and cue Shake. The dog shakes off, then brings me the dummy and we play a game of tug.
  7. Once both dogs are back, we play tug with me holding one dummy rope in each hand and the dogs pulling in different directions.
This game is primarily for fun, but I think it has some training benefits. Both dogs practice holding steady while the dummies are being thrown, and the second dog honors the send-out of the first one. In addition, the dogs practice delivering the dummy at heel, rather than dropping it to shake off as they get into shallow water or as they come out of the water.

The dogs and I play various training games nearly every day — other examples include hikes to practice WS and recall, dinnertime training of skills like line mechanics and backing up, Frisbee at the ballfield for coordination, etc. — but I rarely record them in this blog. I only mention today's games so as not to leave a gap for today's date.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shore-handling, Come-in Drill, Blind

  • Series A. At Cheltenham, shore-handling toolkit Tool #6, Over-WTL-W/O (Laddie)
  • Series B. At Cheltenham, poorman land/water double (both dogs)
  • Series C. At Cheltenham, poorman land/water double (both dogs)
  • Series D. At Cheltenham, poorman land/water double (both dogs)
  • Series E. At Oaks, come-in drill and blind (both dogs)
Series A. Although I plan to continue building Laddie's confidence on LWL retrieves, I decided to begin also working with Laddie on the shore-handling toolkit I designed. Laddie has previously shown that he has Tools #1-#4. If we were continuing numerically, the next tool would be Tool #5, Back-WTL-W, that is, a disciplined cast (that is, a cast while the dog is carrying the article). Given Laddie's lack of fluency on LWL retrieves, I'm afraid Tool #5 might be counterproductive at this stage, so I decided to skip to Tool #6, Over-WTL-W/O:

In our version, we were positioned at the end of our swim-by area rather than on one of the sides, and I didn't pre-position a dummy. Instead, I gave Laddie the Over cast, and when he began swimming in the indicated direction, then I tossed the dummy onto the shore he was swimming toward.

We did a total of four retrieves, right/left/right/left. Laddie had no difficulty with any aspect of the drill, including the Back send-out with no target, the WS in water, and the Over casts with no target.

Series B, C, D.
Series B, C, and D were once again a total of six poorman land/water doubles, in three separate locations on the Cheltenham property, one set-up for each dog at each location.

For both dogs, each double today was structured as:
  • #1: Relatively short and easy land/water retrieve (though one of Lumi's required some handling as it turned out)
  • #2: Challenging land/water retrieve
For Lumi, the #2 challenges were as follows:
  • Series B: LWL consisting of 70-yard land segment off mound, 60-yard water segment entering channel on diagonal section of end on the way out, and 5-yard land segment up steep embankment
  • Series C: Entry point and throw at section of stickpond that Lumi has previously had difficulty with
  • Series D: 100 yard swim to far shoreline, past point at 50 yards five yards to the left of the line to the fall
For Laddie, the #2 challenges were as follows:
  • Series B: land-water-shoreline retrieve
  • Series C: land-water-land retrieve
  • Series D: land-water-shoreline retrieve
The throws to the shoreline were accidental, occurring only because my throw was too short. While Laddie's retrieve on Series C was excellent, he played with the dummy a little on the retrieves that were at the shoreline.

Series E.
Series E was a continuation of our work on cueing Here when the dog does not yet have the retrieval article. As I understand it, Here cannot be used in competition, since the dog will be dropped if the handler uses any verbal cast other than Over and Back. But a partial come-in cued by Here can be used during training after two or three cast refusals as attrition, before again giving the desired cast, with the result that the dog's tendency to refuse casts will decline.

As I understand it, the reason for using Here in that situation is that a whistle come-in before the dog has the article is used for directing the dog to the blind, rather than for attrition because of a series of cast refusals.

In today's drill, I once again set up three target blinds, lining poles with no retrieval article, and a cold blind, but with the longest target blind longer than any previously in this drill. Today's set-up was as follows, left to right within a 45° angle:
  • #4: 150-yard cold blind (orange dummy), marked by surveyors flag
  • #1: 40-yard target blind
  • #2: 80-yard target blind
  • #3: 120-yard target blind
Both dogs performed almost identically. They ran the #1-#3 with zero or one WSC per blind, with excellent responsiveness both on the WSCs when needed and on the WS/Here cue when the dog reached the pole. But their responsiveness on #4 was weaker, possibly because their field of vision showed many potential targets, and also possibly because temps were in the high 80s.

To reduce workload and keep motivation high, I'll try switching from three to two target blinds for four more come-in drills for the next several days: 70-140, 80-160, 90-180, and 100-200 yard set-ups.

In addition, to try to improve motivation and responsiveness on WSCs, I think I'll begin to run some land blinds at Cheltenham with happy throws into water as reinforcement for delivery.
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